He says social media is “bullshit,” yet his own presence on Twitter is more impressive than most self-proclaimed social media experts. He’s using the same online platforms he scoffs at (even swears at) to spread the word about his book, Social Media is Bullshit.
B.J. Mendelson — who has sold 7,000 copies of his book with a nonexistent marketing budget — is a self-proclaimed reformed marketer who says he’s had enough of the social media snake oil salespeople. He’s on a mission to tell the world the truth about the alleged social media experts who “came slithering out of their holes after the economy tanked with their extremely limited skill sets, empty catch phrases, and, in a lot of cases, horrifying personality deficiencies.”
Mendelson says he wants to put these people out of business.
He’ll be squaring off against Westchester “social media advocates” Kris Ruby and Ted Miller in a “no-holds-barred debate” on the value of social media, this Thursday, March 21 at Benjamin Steakhouse in White Plains. The event — presented by the Westchester County Business Journal, Fairfield County Business Journal, HV Biz and Wag Magazine — will be moderated by Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson and will also feature “social media expert” Bruce Newman.
In his book, Mendelson challenges many widely accepted social media ideas (he refers to them as myths) put forth by well-known authors, marketers and social media practitioners such as Chris Brogan, Clay Shirky, Seth Godin and others.
Mendelson: I have seen way too many small businesses, artists and entrepreneurs who think “social media” will allow them to make a career of doing what they love – the exact thing the marketers promised them, and then went broke in the process. That’s why it’s important to dispel these myths.
Mendelson writes about many issues in social media that have puzzled and frustrated business owners for years. One example is the idea of connecting with influencers in an effort to spread one’s ideas and content across the web.
Mendelson: Don’t waste your money trying to find, identify and influence these influencers. If what you do is easy to understand, easy to use, easy to share, and it’s good, given enough momentum, it will be passed on.
Mendelson goes on to say that many of the purported influencers in the field of social media are fakers.
Mendelson: Many people in the social media industry who are peddling the modern version of the “influencer” myth believe themselves to be influencers. Otherwise they wouldn’t be talking about useless things like their Klout scores.
One of his most interesting positions goes against the sentiment of almost every social media user I’ve ever spoken with on the subject of combatting negative sentiment about one’s business on the web. Mendelson says that “If they’re talking about you behind your back, they’re talking to your ass.” He refers repeatedly to the “1 percent rule,” saying that when it comes to internet comments, it’s typically a small minority doing the talk. “Nobody else cares about what’s being said about you on Yelp or on YouTube.”
Mendelson follows up with his advice on how to provide the best customer service in person, using the phone, and by email. He also offers tips on how to flush negative content out of the search results through the creation of original, quality content.
There are plenty of social media skeptics, but few have such a deep understanding of the subject as Mendelson, and even fewer are as immersed in it as he has been over the past several years. The book not only questions concepts that many social media users accept as fact — it also provides sound answers to many of those questions. In other instances, it leads the reader to explore different possible solutions than the ones being sold by many of today’s social media marketers.
“The concept that if you put something online, ‘people will see it’ is not true.” Mendelson says. “Most YouTube videos go unwatched and most web sites go unvisited… Question everything.”
With more than 700,000 people following his Twitter account, many people (especially those that didn’t get any further than the cover of his book) label Mendelson a hypocrite. It’s clear to anyone who has read the book, however, that Mendelson’s problems with social media are primarily with those who misrepresent and over-hype it, rather than with the technology itself.
Mendelson: Let’s be honest: Using connections, getting the media behind you, and having a good product are how he world worked before the internet got here, and that’s how it’s going to work long after it. The fact that members of the media are obsessed now with what’s being said on Twitter, and wrongly treating it as news does not mean people have any more power than they did before “social media” arrived on the scene. Your participation is optional then, not mandatory.
Chris S. Cornell works at Creative Content, LLC, a Westchester-based firm that provides innovative commercial photography and video, public relations, website development and social media management services for food and beverage industry clients. Cornell also manages several online communities in Westchester County, NY and the Hudson Valley. He consults, speaks and writes on the subject of social media, content production, marketing and public relations. You can follow Chris on Twitter at Cornell140.